The Georgia freshman linebacker has seen substantial playing time thus far in 2012 and making a quicker impact than coaches expected. His sister, Aysha, is a travelling football trainer at Albany State and working to possibly transfer to Georgia. And his parents, Ronald and Phyleshia, are constantly on the road supporting their standout children –– and they couldn’t be happier doing so.
The Jenkins family, after all, has plenty of experience travelling on a consistent basis. Ronald worked for the Army for 22 years and was forced to pick up and move on multiple occasions. Jordan was born in Texas before moving to various states including Alaska, California, Indiana, South Carolina and Washington among others. The family then finally settled in Georgia in 2006, which came at somewhat of a surprise. Ronald was originally set for a transfer to Fort Hood in Texas but last-minute orders shifted him to the small town of Hamilton, Ga.
How small? Enough that entire population (1,000 people) would fill just over one section of Sanford Stadium.
But that was perfectly fine with the Jenkins family. Ronald’s plan was to retire in order to have a more fatherly role during his children’s high school lives –– especially considering the onset of Jordan’s recruitment. He and Phyleshia were quite aware that scouts from around the country would visit and recruit their son. But the duo was even more mindful of how difficult the recruiting process was going to be for their son. They were happy that they had one another to lean on.
“When you’re a single parent going through the recruiting process there is a lot of information,” Ronald said. “There are kids that we know that are at schools that they’re unhappy at right now. Some are coming home from schools either because they didn’t do enough research, or they are homesick.”
“It’s too tough of a process to do by yourself. I’m blessed that my wife and me were able to go through the process as a team with Jordan,” Ronald said.
And so is Georgia.
The thorough investigation of each program by the family is why Jordan ultimately landed in Athens.
A five-star recruit at Harris County, Jordan initially found minimal appeal of suiting up in Red and Black. In his first recruiting interview at age 14, he told Scout’s Chad Simmons that he had no interest of becoming a Bulldog. That mentality carried on through much of his high school career –– at least until defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made a charge.
“Georgia was trailing quite a bit, but then all the pieces started falling in place,” Ronald said. “It took a long time get us from not necessarily anti-Georgia, but not very interested (in Georgia), to being totally on-board. In the end, we are so happy and content with the decision that he made. The whole package has been so much better than you can imagine.”
The “package” the Jenkins family wanted wasn’t just football, but the collective experience Jordan would get while going to college.
“We talked to Jordan about what he could get out the college academically, and what he was going to do after four or five years in school,” Phyleshia said. “I made him aware of the fact that the football field is just one part of your academic success. Football is a springboard to get you to where you need or want to be.”
And that’s exactly where Jordan is. Not only is he soaking in the experience of a former NFL coach in Grantham, but he’s also learning how to perfect his mechanics from fellow linebacker Jarvis Jones. In fact, the All-American has taken Jordan under his wing and become a guiding mentor to the true freshman.
“He’s always trying to help me out and fine-tune my pass rush,” Jenkins said. “We always work together to try and generate new moves because you can’t keep doing the same ones. I’ve gotten a good four or five moves down and I’m doing another one that Jarvis says I can do better than him –– he says I have a better club.”
Though Jones may give credit where it’s due, Jordan is quick to point out that the All-American “doesn’t sugar coat anything.” The bond is comparable to a big brother-little brother relationship, even for nitpicky things like opening a door or getting a drink.
“I always do everything for him,” said Jordan acknowledging the two room together at hotels on game weekends. “The A/C is right by him if I ask him to turn it down, he’ll be like, ‘You’ve got legs. Go ahead and get up freshman.’ If someone knocks on the door for roll call, I have to get up from the far side of the room and get it.”
The two enjoy toying with each other, but know when to shift into serious perspective, such as Saturday’s game against Kentucky. After an ailing ankle forced Jones to miss two weeks of practice, the Jenkins family sensed that Jordan would see action in Lexington. Their primary concern, however, remained Jones’ condition.
“Jarvis is a family friend, and we were most concerned about his health,” Phyleshia said. “He has a beautiful career ahead of him, so that was our first concern. Second, of course, was that [his injury] opened up the possibility of our son getting to see more playing time. We knew that Jarvis would be one of [Jordan’s] biggest cheerleaders in that regard.”
The stats may not show it –– just two tackles and two quarterback hurries –– but Jordan was a defensive headache for the Wildcats. In a pivotal point late in the third quarter, he helped prevent an end-around that not only forced fourth down, but also pushed Kentucky out of field goal range. Alec Ogletree was credited the tackle, but it was Jordan’s block-shedding that made the play.
Again in the fourth, Jordan made a goal line stop that held off a Kentucky touchdown. The Wildcats scored two plays later, but on a rush designed to run away from Jordan.
“He put some pressure on the quarterback at times,” said head coach Mark Richt. “I thought he played hard and got after it. I don’t think there were any major issues with him as far as [defensive] assignments go –– there really hasn’t been all year long. He’s a pretty sharp kid and tends to do things the way he’s coached.”
Heading into this weekend’s showdown with Florida, Jones’ official status remains in the air, though all signs indicate that the All-American will return. But that shouldn’t fret the Jenkins family. Jordan’s performance this season has stood out to his coaches and will likely result in more playing time as the 2012 campaign nears conclusion.
“Jordan did a good job, and he can give us much needed depth as we move forward through the season,” Grantham said. “The only way you’re going to get better in this league is if you play. He’s got a tremendous future, and people will be recognizing him as we move forward.”